Sook Min Has No Voice and She Needs Us To be Her Voice. Let’s Rise Together with Her.
This is a story about Sook Min. She is 38 years old and she has been suffering from Polio and Down Syndrome since birth. She has severe motor impairment and the mental capacity of a child. She is not able to care for herself and requires lifelong support and supervision. She is unable to communicate and she understands only basic sign language.
Sook Min’s family was not able to care for her and she had to be admitted into a government-run shelter for the disabled since she was a child. She stayed in the shelter until the age of 15. At the age of 15, she had to be transferred to another government-run shelter as she was getting too old for the previous shelter.
Sook Min’s present shelter is home to many persons with various disabilities. All of them live under the same roof, and the mentally disabled patients with violent tendencies are not adequately housed in separate confinements for the safety of themselves as well as the other patients. At the new shelter, Sook Min settled and stayed for the next 22 years. Little did she know that her humble existence was about to drastically change because of a tragic incident that would see her playing a central role in the way in which disability is seen in this country.
That tragic incident occurred one faithful evening when Sook Min fell down from her bed. Sook Min lived with many others in a dorm and beside her bed was a cell. In the cell, lived a mental patient. They were separated only by grilled bars. This mental patient had violent tendencies and was only half of Sook Min’s age. After Sook Min fell down from her bed, the mental patient lured her towards the grilled bars separating them.
Unknowingly, Sook Min approached the mental patient. Once Sook Min was close enough, the mental patient’s arms reached out through the grilled bars and caught hold of Sook Min. Sook Min was not able to escape in her mental and physical condition. The mental patient then dug into Sook Min’s eyes with her fingers, crushing Sook Min’s left eyeball and damaging its surrounding nerves. Sook Min’s right eyeball was also dug into and was injured. On top of that, the mental patient also tore a chunk of flesh off Sook Min’s shin causing injury. This assault lasted for 3 hours.
After 3 hours, a shelter staff discovered what had happened and immediately sent Sook Min to the nearest hospital. Due to the severity of the injury, she had to be transferred to another hospital in a different state. The doctor did some treatment to prevent the injuries from getting worse but did not start corrective surgery as it would require her family’s consent. Her family was only informed 15 hours after the incident and they immediately rushed to the hospital.
This incident was widely reported in the press:
There are many other similar reports on this incident in the Chinese press.
After that, the shelter contacted Sook Min’s family and informed them that the she can no longer remain in their care hence she must be discharged from the shelter.
As for the mental patient, she was subsequently transferred to Hospital Bahagia in Tanjung Rambutan.
Sook Min’s case is just one of the many tragic cases that occur in shelters for the disabled when there is no adequate or proper care. The saddest thing about this incident is that it could have been prevented had there been adequate or proper care.
Sook Min is not able to tell her own story so she needs us to speak for her, to allow her voice and the voices of many other persons with disabilities to be heard. Let it be known that they too deserve to be treated with the same dignity, respect and standard of care as everybody else.